Best of the West: Wildfire funding solutions, Colorado’s broadband boost, “trash boom” protects Utah waterways

The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting March 26, 2018, that you don't want to miss. Featured image: National Weather Service Sacramento

Montana landowners with property in wildland urban interface areas pay an annual fee to fund wildfire prevention efforts. The state’s Department of Natural Resources and Conservation is considering expanding that fee to all landowners in the state as one of several alternatives to fund firefighter training, equipment, fire detection and prevention.

Across the West, increasing numbers of military veterans are finding fulfilment as firefighters. “Veterans need camaraderie. They need to be part of a team. And when you’re working in forestry, especially in fire, that’s what you get,” says Jason Boeshore, Veterans Program Coordinator with Conservation Legacy Southwest Conservation Corps in Colorado.

Recent approval of the federal spending bill will help end the budget practice known as "fire-borrowing," which transfers prevention funds to fight existing wildfires. The bill sets aside $2 billion annually for wildfire suppression and relieves federal officials from diverting funds from wildfire prevention efforts.

Let’s Connect: Rural Colorado is one step closer to better internet connectivity, thanks to a bill allocating $115 million in the next five years to expand broadband. Gov. John Hickenlooper praised the measure, saying “I think it’s something that down the road will make this state stronger and more resilient forever.”

Jordan River Cleanup: A new floating “trash boom” in Utah will prevent floating garbage and debris from reaching the Great Salt Lake and polluting sensitive wetlands and bird habitats. After two years of planning, the project is underway and has already captured a basketball and a tire, among other objects.

Arid States: As dry conditions persist in western states such as New Mexico, where 80 percent of the state is in severe to extreme drought, questions about the future precipitation remain. In California, will March storms keep the state from reentering drought? And in Colorado, snowpack levels are at 72 percent of normal. And read this story to learn that if drought continues for 18 years, does it need a new name?

History Lessons: An airplane propeller signed by inventor Orville Wright will have a new temporary home in Colorado. Across the border in Wyoming, a license plate collector will display some of the 20,000 in his collection that illustrate the history of both the automobile and the state.

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